Former First-Round Pick Sounds Off on Playing for Mike Tomlin, Steelers

Mike Tomlin

Getty A former first-round pick, who could be a free agent this offseason, raved about potentially playing for Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

If offensive tackle Taylor Lewan plays for a team other than the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2023, it won’t be due to a lack of trying.

While appearing as a guest on The Steel Here podcast on January 31, Lewan publicly expressed his desire to play for the Steelers for the second time this offseason. Specifically during his most recent interview, he was very vocal about his affection for Mike Tomlin.

“Mike Tomlin was the head coach of the Pro Bowl, I think, in 2017 or something like that. He is a fantastic individual,” Lewan said on the podcast. “I think he is so cool, he’s calm. I hear about the guys talk about him and how great he is in the locker room and how he handles the locker room.

“Being a leader of men is a very difficult thing to do, and when I was around him for that short week in a very calm and relaxing setting, I thought to myself, ‘Man, this is a cool coach to play for.'”

A first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Lewan has spent his entire career with the Tennessee Titans. He made three consecutive Pro Bowls from 2016-18.

Lewan Sending Steelers Clear Message Ahead of NFL Free Agency

The offensive tackle has previously hinted at playing for the Steelers, but his appearance on The Steel Here podcast was the first time he made it very clear.

It’s a bit unusual that Lewan would be so blatant in his desire to sign with the Steelers this offseason because he’s actually still under contract with the Titans.

Tennessee signed Lewan to a 5-year contract extension in 2018, which made him the highest paid offensive lineman in NFL history. The 3-time Pro Bowler has one season left on that deal.

But as he’s been explicit with his message to the Steelers, Lewan has a clear expectation not to return to the Titans to finish his contract.

“If you were to say ‘what happens to Taylor Lewan with the Tennessee Titans after the season ends?’ You would likely assume that I am released from the team probably February or March,” Lewan said to NFL media personality Kay Adams on FanDuelTV in December. “That is something that, you know, if you play in this game long enough, you see how the dominos fall.

“Two ACL’s in three years, it’s hard for people to wrap their minds around keeping me in the building.”

Lewan repeated his expectations of receiving his release from the Titans on The Steel Here podcast.

The Titans will save all of Lewan’s $14.8 million cap hit against the salary cap with his release, as the offensive lineman does not have any dead cap money remaining on his contract. That, along with the fact Lewan hasn’t played a full season since 2017, makes him a very enticing cut candidate this offseason.

Lewan Responds to Tweet in Steelers Uniform

The Lewan-Steelers chatter started in full force when the 31-year-old responded to a tweet of himself in a Steelers uniform in January.

“Those colors so go hard,” Lewan quote tweeted on January 17.

It wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Steelers to kick the tires on adding Lewan this offseason if he becomes available. But it doesn’t seem like the most natural fit.

While the Steelers should add depth to their offensive line, they probably aren’t going to dedicate salary cap space to signing a big name.

As complimentary as Lewan was of Tomlin and the Steelers, the offensive tackle essentially revealed on January 31 that he would not be interested in playing in Pittsburgh for less than $10 million (on a 1-year contract).

For that amount of money, Lewan would obviously need to start at left tackle, displacing Dan Moore. Not that Moore should enter 2023 as Pittsburgh’s clear-cut starter at left tackle, but it’s debatable whether Lewan is a big enough upgrade over Moore to justify paying Lewan $10 million.

Doing that would hurt Pittsburgh’s chances of signing many other free agents.

Lewan was one of the best offensive linemen in the league five years ago, but he’s missed 30 games over the past three seasons. With that kind of injury track record, Lewan might find it difficult to make eight figures from any team in 2023.

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